Purgatory on Earth

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with The VeggieTales: A Snoodle’s Tale.  The actual “A Snoodle’s Tale” segment is so poignant and profound; I highly recommend it to young and old.  The little Snoodle is weighed down by the negative ways his fellow snoodles have depicted him.  Then he meets his creator who paints him a picture of how he is meant to be.  Of course the metaphor is that God, our creator, sees our potential even if no one else does.  The show is meant to be a lesson about self-worth.

Sometimes I can’t help but think of the flip side of this metaphor.  Not only does A Snoodle’s Tale teach us not to let the unkind words of others get us down, but it also tells us that there is a more perfect version of ourselves that we should strive to be no matter what obstacles might stand in our way.  This is supposed to be the goal of every Christian.

Of course, not only are we supposed to strive to be the person God wants us to be, but we have a mission to help others be the best version of themselves as well.  In his book For Better…Forever, Gregory Popcack explains that this is one of the primary purposes of the sacrament of marriage, something that most people don’t realize.  We often want to change our spouses to be more what we want them to be rather than what God wants them to be.

And then you have children….I sometimes think about parenthood as Purgatory on Earth. Purgatory is often one of the most misunderstood tenants of the Catholic faith.  Many Catholics will wrongly tell you that purgatory went the way of the dodo after Vatican II, but that’s just because they were never taught anything about purgatory.  It’s just another one of those things that fell by the wayside during the “Kambaya” catechesis that has often run rampant since the early ’70’s.  I never really understood purgatory until I started reading some of Scott Hahn‘s works.  He compares purgatory to smelting fires that purify iron ore, since scripture refers to purgatory as involving fire.  The fires of purgatory purifies our souls so that we’ll be perfect for heaven.

We tend to think of children as clay we must mold.  (And hopefully we are molding them into the image God has of them.)  We often don’t think about the ways that having and raising children molds us for the better.  I often ponder that part in Evan Almighty when “God” says, “If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience?  Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient?”  God gives me lots of opportunities to be patient with my children, in addition to opportunities to develop other virtues.  It is not a coincidence that many people turn or return to religion after having children, and despite what the cynics say it is not out of some sense of desperation.  It is because having and raising children makes you really reassess what is important in life.  And being a parent really refines your character in ways nothing else does, and sometimes those ways are just as a painful as the fires of Purgatory are described.

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